The Voices of Climate Feminists in All We Can Save
By Dr. Laura Guertin, Penn State Brandywine
Wildfires in the western United States and Canada. Catastrophic flooding from extreme weather events in western Europe. California struggling for water access, while Louisiana and Texas losing electricity because of an unstable power grid and the frequency of hurricane impacts. What do all of these events have in common? They all tie in to climate change and the impacts we are seeing across the globe. Although some say that climate change is a problem years away that our children will face in the future, this statement couldn’t be further from the truth — because climate change is here — now.
This post is not going to address the cause of our current global warming trend (short answer — it’s us). It will instead direct you towards a place to learn about solutions, to hear the voices of those that are working to make the difference we want to see in our physical environment and social structures when it comes to climate change. I highly recommend the book, All We Can Save — Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, edited by climate leaders Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson.
Published in 2020 by Penguin Random House and printed on acid-free paper, this anthology contains original contributions from 41 essayists, 17 poets, and one illustrator. They are from fields ranging from science, law, farming, teaching, and more. They are from across races. But what do each of these authors have in common? They are all women — women with a strong commitment to make contributions and demonstrate leadership in the climate movement.
Take a listen to the first two pages of the book from the chapter Begin, read by the editors Johnson and Wilkinson, and starts out with a tribute to the work of Eunice Newton Foote.
From topics that range from ecoanxiety to Climate Victory Gardens, there is something in this collection of essays and poems that will resonate with everyone. Interested in real estate and sunny day flooding? Or how historically marginalized communities are impacted by hurricanes? Or how about the carbon footprint of the fashion industry? And then there’s public service and public health… these subjects and more can be found in the essays.
Co-founder of 500 Women Scientists, Jane Zelikova, has an essay titled Solutions Underfoot, focused on ecology, soil, and microbes.
“As a scientist, I am both fascinated and shocked by how rapidly climate change is disrupting ecological relationships that evolved over millennia. But science also reminds me we are not powerless… We can help save ourselves, and the planet we depend on, if we’re willing to play in the dirt.” — Jane Zelikova, Solutions Underfoot, p. 288
The poetry contained in this anthology is powerful — take a listen to one of the poems, Being Human (p. 266–269), recited by the author, Naima Penniman.
The last page in the first chapter Begin states that this is not a book about heroes, but instead a “book about a spectrum of work that needs doing and a collective effort to make our best contributions” (p. xxiv). But I would argue that these women are heroes for not only the work they do, but for taking the time to document their experiences, to share their stories, and for ensuring that climate feminists are getting the credit they have earned and deserve for climate solutions. They are heroes for providing all of us the opportunity to learn, to be inspired, and to have a narrative to read individually or in groups (see my blog post over at the American Geophysical Union about two book circles I have participated in around All We Can Save — one with the Women’s Aquatic Network (WAN), and one with the Academy of Natural Sciences).
“We can’t allow climate policy to be about ego and credit; it must be about collaborating, building on one another’s work, and elevating the best ideas we have to solve the biggest problem humanity has ever faced… In fact, it may be the unheard voices — voices that have been suppressed for generations — who have insight into critical solutions.” — Maggie Thomas, The Politics of Policy, p. 87
And now, I have a foundation to expand my own efforts towards climate solutions. As an educator, the best way I can make a difference for climate change is to talk about it (see Katharine Hayhoe’s TED Talk), and to prepare my university students with information literacy and communication skills so they can also have conversations and be advocates for Planet Earth. I’m not only using All We Can Save as required reading for my students, but each of them will be authoring their own essay on climate solutions. This will give my students an opportunity to share their own voices and experiences with changes that have happened during their lives. I look forward to the creation of our own anthology, which will hopefully lead to further engagement and action towards the solutions we need now and in the immediate future as we face climate change.
I hope you will pick up this book, read and be inspired by these voices, and then find your own voice and journey on the pathway towards climate solutions.
“The power of culture lies in the power of story. Stories change and activate people, and people have the power to change norms, cultural practices, and systems….We need more transformational stories so that we can connect the dots and shift narratives. The climate movement has largely left storytellers and culture out of its strategy toolbox. Now is the time to change that.” — Favianna Rodriguez, Harnessing Cultural Power, p. 123